Business Models for Real Infinite Hourly Rates – Pt 1: Membership Sites

IHR Innovation Group is focused on creating businesses that have the potential to generate revenue at a high rate of revenue per effort or revenue per input hour.

This could sound a lot like a generic aim – but it really isn’t. This doesn’t mean the generation of high levels of revenue alone, the measure of input effort is the key.

Here’s our first example of business models that deliver on this aim in this short series of articles.

The knowledge and support centric membership website

Developing a website and set of web assets which generate traffic alone doesn’t deliver IHR. Turning this into a membership offering can deliver IHR.

The membership offering could take a few forms:

  • A members only forum which takes the form of community
  • A set of training, advice or courses which members can devour on a self serve basis
  • Group training or drop-in style personal support for members who actively seek it

People who are looking for information on a topic can be bombarded with low to mediocre quality information all over Google. Today’s problem can be a lot more to do with finding trustworthy information in an easily accessible format. Having a community and an expert behind the information to provide context and answer specific questions is of massive value to many people.

In a world where we are notably time poor and cash rich (in broad terms) a membership offering is highly attractive.

Revenues and inputs on membership sites

Revenues are driven by membership growth and retention. The key point here is that growth in membership numbers is not directly proportional to input hours required. When building a membership site a lot of input effort is required to gain traction, however as the membership grows the cost of running that business does not increase by the same levels.

Recurring revenue is the desirable output from a membership site, or put another way the subscription model. 1 lead converts into a sale again and again. As opposed to having to generate and convert leads again and again. This significantly reduces the costs involved with marketing and selling your offering in comparison with most other forms of product or service.

The core competency of a membership site business

So what is the core competency of a membership website business?

The business is knowledge or skill centric, ultimately relying on some underlying expertise in a specific area.

The ability to convert these skills or knowledge into content that your target audience needs is the required core competency.

The whole business runs on the basis that you are a content generating machine. The content needs to be generated for your members, but also to be shared for free to attract new members and form part of your sales & marketing material.

A significant portion of this business can be cheaply outsourced to specialists to keep the business running. This allows you to focus on maintaining and improving your expertise in the topic which you’re membership site is centred around.

Example of tasks and skills that can be outsourced:

  • Video or audio editing and production
  • Graphic design
  • Website maintenance and design
  • Blog content creation from video or audio files
  • Blog posting and styling on your website
  • Podcast publishing on multiple platforms
  • Video publishing on multiple platforms
  • Social media post scheduling
  • Social media advertising management
  • Email copywriting and styling
  • Email scheduling
  • Email automation copywriting, scheduling and setup
  • Content syndication and backlink building
  • Influencer and partner outreach
  • Landing page creation and automation setup
  • Customer service for billing and service issues
  • Sales copy development

Audience – the critical ingredient

The reality as with most online businesses, audiences will make or break the business. If you haven’t got an audience (or access to one) your offer will sit in a dark corner of the internet gathering dust.Utilising efforts such as:

  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Influencer marketing
  • Video marketing
  • Podcast marketing

Among a tonne of other marketing techniques, you can gain the attention of an audience. This takes time, effort and isn’t where it ends. Attention of an audience has measurably different levels – with the key word being engagement. The purpose behind the engagement? Move people along the know-like-trust path. Once they know you exist, you have a chance to make your business liked, then you can build trust. At the trust stage, barriers to purchasing from you are at their lowest.

All this takes a lot of effort with no initial reward. You’ve got to be bought into delayed gratification – not seeing immediate reward for your efforts.

Initially the hourly rate is therefore extremely low. But, as discussed above, the model has the potential to deliver great Effective Hourly Rates.


  • There’s lots of work to be done up front
  • The core competency of a membership site business is content generation
  • A significant portion of activities can be outsourced, but this comes at a cost
  • Audiences are the key to success, build (or borrow) an audience, and then sell to them

Final thought

If you have confidence in your idea, and the beginnings of an audience, the ideal scenario for you would be to have enough cash to pay others to deliver everything but the content for your business. This means all of your time could be focused on quality content, increasing the likelihood of success further.

This approach demands investment of money and time – but not as much of your time as the alternative.

Of course, bootstrapping your way to organic growth is completely feasible. It’s more likely you EHR is going to be worse in this version, but as you’re not utilising a lot of cash your debt level is a lot lower.

If an existing business with an offline offering was considering the movement to an online membership site offering, they may consider investment of cash over time.

The limiting factor for this business would be knowing what they needed to buy, and where to find it in the first place…Maybe constructing the super sub-contract team is a topic for next time…

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